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As 2015 comes to a close, we're taking a look back at...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- I'm [John McCain / Barack Obama] And I Approve This ...
I'm [John McCain / Barack Obama] And I Approve This False Message
If one word could sum up the rhetoric of both campaigns on the issue of tax policy in this presidential election it would be "dishonest." The latest advertisements from Sens. Obama and McCain attacking one another on taxes are once again full of misleading information. Let's look at Sen. McCain's ad:
(Announcer): Who is Barack Obama?
(Obama): I'm a tax cutter.
(Announcer): Really? Senator Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes. Ninety-four times. He's not truthful on taxes. At least Congressional liberals admit they want to raise your taxes. Add billions in new spending. And oppose offshore drilling. Congressional liberals. The truth hurts (pause) you.
(McCain): I'm John McCain and I approved this message.
During the ad, it flashes up a Washington Times headline from a June 2008 article: "Democrats Plan Taxes All." Of course this is designed to get you to think Barack Obama will raise your taxes. But according to Obama's tax plan as outlined by his campaign, the fact of the matter is that most Americans would not see a tax hike under Obama. Most would actually see a tax cut relative to any baseline. (The same is true for McCain's tax plan.)
As for the 94 times, it's really just pointless. Any time you hear an ad talking about a person voting for anything X number of times, chances are it's meaningless given how the legislative process works (different versions of different bills, votes that contain many provisions, etc.).
Now let's look at Barack Obama's latest misleading ad:
(Obama): I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.
(Announcer): On healthcare, John McCain promises a tax credit, but here's what he won't tell you. McCain would impose a new tax on health benefits, taxing your healthcare for the first time ever. Its a multi-trillion dollar tax hike. The largest middle class tax increase in history. You won't find one word about it on his web site, but the McCain tax could cost your family thousands. Can you afford it?
Once again, these claims are just false. It is not the largest tax increase on the middle class in history. In fact, the Tax Policy Center says that it is a $1.3 trillion tax cut over the next ten years (something Sarah Palin got wrong in the debate), and it would actually save the average tax unit in the middle 20 percent of the income distribution $1,241 in 2009 and even $830 in 2018. It's funny because by this measure of middle class (middle 20 percent of tax units), in the aggregate, the middle class would save more under McCain's health care tax plan than under Obama's health care plan. This is according to TPC preliminary estimates (see page 57 of this outline of the candidates' plans).
It has become obvious that neither candidate cares one iota about the truth and will do anything to deceive the American people in order to get their vote. My advice to any American: when you hear Obama or McCain talk about his opponent over the next 30 days, just assume it is coming out of the mouth of Baghdad Bob.
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The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.